Are you still trying to figure out some great Christmas gifts for kids?
My daughters—ages seven and 13—want lots of presents for Christmas. And I always want to find them the best Christmas presents. They love running over to the Christmas tree and tearing into wrapping paper. They love discovering what is inside. Then they move on and rip through the next gift. Then the next. It is a dizzying blur of little arms shredding through red, green and gold paper.
Do they like what's inside? I guess. After all, it's something they said they wanted. It's something they told me would make a cool Christmas present.
But what do they really and truly want? Usually Jackie writes a list for Santa. She'll stare at a blank piece of paper for a few minutes, not sure what to ask for. Then she'll turn on cartoons and wait for the commercials. She'll jot down nearly every product that comes across the screen. Or she'll find a circular from Target or a brochure from Justice and write down every toy or piece of clothing. She's never mentioned wanting these things before. But now they're on her Christmas wish list. If I ask her a day after she wrote the list what she wants, she won't even remember.
As parents or grandparents, we want to find that best Christmas presents. We want to discover that gift that will light up our children's faces. But usually there are too many presents under the tree. So the perfect gift is elusive—it's in the next box or the next one or the one after that. If our kids found the perfect gift in one of the boxes, they wouldn't even notice. They are too caught up in the unwrapping. And when there are no more boxes? There's that quick scan of the tree to make sure nothing has been overlooked. Then there is that momentary letdown because the real fun is over. They don't act letdown, but I see it in their faces. Because I remember feeling it too.
When I was shopping the other day, I watched parents and grandparents pushing their carts through the aisles at Target. They were desperately searching for that magic something. No one was smiling. No one looked like they were having fun. For most, shopping for presents is work. There are lists and schedules. There are deadlines and appointments. The Christmas songs piped throughout the stores always seem a bit ridiculous to me because no one is merry or jolly or happy. They are just frenzied.
When I look back on my favorite childhood Christmas memories, they rarely involve gifts. I remember baking cookies with my mom or skating under the lights of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree or caroling with the neighbors. I remember playing with some just opened present with my dad. I have no recollection what the toy was, but I can vividly picture my dad, uncharacteristically unshaven, uncharacteristically in his bathrobe, uncharacteristically playing on the floor with me. My dad was a workaholic, but on Christmas he was unconcerned about time or work or getting ready for something else. He would play with gift I had just received but that I can no longer remember.
Because the things that don't matter are always forgotten. And that stuff that counts—our time, the gift of us— stays with us forever.